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Mix: Tony Blair, Chocolate, iBrella, Digital releases

British Prime Minister Tony Blair traveled to California’s Silicon Valley this weekend to meet with tech leaders, including Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Blair was “on a mission to find out the secrets of the U.S. high-tech sector’s success and apply the lessons in Britain.”

Verizon Wireless and LG have launched a new music phone to compete with the iPod. The LG Chocolate phone features a touch-button interface, 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth and a MicroSD card slot. Verizon is also eliminating the monthly $15 fee for its music download service.

Audible extends iTunes Music Store partnership

Audible today announced that it will continue to offer downloadable audiobooks and spoken word content exclusively through the iTunes Music Store. “ customers will continue to be able to use their iPods and iTunes software to download and manage their audio, and Audible will continue to exclusively supply the iTunes Music Store with its more than 16,000 audiobooks and other book-related content,” the company said. “Audible will also continue to supply iTunes with a consistent flow of other programming from’s vast collection of comedy, paid podcasts, lectures, speeches, radio programs, language instruction, children’s stories, religious programs, and dramatic performances.”

iPod helps eMusic take No. 2 spot in digital music sales

The popularity of the iPod and eMusic’s unprotected MP3 files have helped the company quietly move into second place behind iTunes in digital music sales. Even though eMusic lacks hits from the four major labels and only offers independent music, the company is beating rivals thanks to its ability to sell DRM-free, iPod-compatible songs. “There’s no question the iPod success has worked in our favor,” said eMusic CEO David Pakman. “The consumer confusion over interoperable formats gives us a great advantage.” Napster, Real Rhapsody, and Yahoo Music have floundered in part because of the iPod-incompatible copy-protection technology used on their songs. According to data from the NPD Group, iTunes leads the market with 67%, followed by eMusic with 11%, Real Rhapsody with 4%, Napster with 4% and MSN Music 3%.

Forums: iLounge Nike+ challenge now open

In this latest look at the iLounge Discussion Forums: a member has thrown down the virtual gauntlet to other readers of the forums to compete in a virtual race, then share their results from Apple Computer’s Nike + iPod Sport Kit.

Up to 50 members can join in and the suggested challenges are Fastest 1 Mile, Fastest 5k/ 10k, and Most Miles Over Two Weeks. Feel up to a challenge or just want to have a bit of fun with fellow iLoungers? Read the invitation here.

Newly added: more headlines, less effort

This weekend, we’ve added something new to the site’s main page: more headlines from the site’s top stories, loaded automatically at the top of the page. Previously, if you hit the “refresh” button on your browser, up to eight different top stories would load at the top of the iLounge home page. Now all of the top stories will load and briefly display, one after another, giving you the chance to see what’s new and exciting without having to reload the page.

If something catches your eye, just move your cursor over it to stop it from being replaced with a new headline. And of course, clicking on any of the stories will load a brand new page with additional details. We hope you enjoy this new feature!

French council strikes down parts of controversial ‘iPod law’

The French Constitutional Council has declared major portions of the so-called “iPod law” unconstitutional, according to the New York Times. The council’s 12-page legal finding on the controversial interoperability law “made frequent reference to the 1789 Declaration on Human Rights and concluded that the law violated the constitutional protections of property,” according to the report. “In particular, the council eliminated reduced fines for file sharing and said companies could not be forced, without compensation, to make music sold online compatible with any music device.”

Apple denies ‘four years’ iPod report, clarifies ‘for years’

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris has confirmed to iLounge that she was misquoted in a Chicago Tribune article on failing iPods published earlier this week. The article had quoted her as saying that iPods have a low failure rate and that they are designed to last four years. Kerris said she told the reporter that the iPod was designed to last “for years”—not “four years.” The Tribune has yet to correct its original report.

Microsoft: Zune requires large investment, won’t pay off soon

Microsoft says that its upcoming Zune media player will require “hundreds of millions” of dollars to develop and market, but that the investment will not pay off immediately for the company. “It is something that is going to take time,” said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices group. “This is not a six-month investment time horizon,” he said, adding that it may take three, four or five years for the project to succeed. Bach also said that his Microsoft group—which includes the Xbox, smartphones and Zune products—sees at least another year of losses. “Fiscal ‘07 will be a loss. We think that turns to profit in 08,” said Bach.

GINI debuts iTube speaker system, iConec dock

GINI Systems has introduced its new iProducts line, which initially includes a tube-based 2.1 speaker system and an iPod docking station. “Together, they form a complete iPod audio system that instantly converts digital tunes into music with ‘tube warmth’ that audiophiles have come to know and enjoy,” says GINI. The iTube speaker system ($379) combines vacuum tube and solid-state audio technologies, and features an iPod-like design, an amplifier with a built-in subwoofer, a pair of satellite speakers, and a remote control. GINI’s iConec ($79) iPod docking station features component and S-video output, a full function remote control, built-in charging, and five iPod adapters.

PortalPlayer CEO to step down

iPod chip maker PortalPlayer has announced that company CEO Gary Johnson plans to resign by the end of the year. “My true passion is in leading companies through their initial rapid growth,” said Johnson. “When I joined PortalPlayer, the company had one product and very limited cash. Today, it has several design teams working on products for three major personal multimedia player markets and nearly $200 million in cash… I feel that it is time for me to pursue other opportunities where I can again be instrumental in the early stages of a company’s growth.” The move comes a little more than three months after the company said its chips would not be used in some of Apple’s flash-based iPods.

Target stores offer collectible iTunes gift cards

Special limited edition iTunes Gift Cards featuring popular bands and artists are now being sold at participating Target stores. Collectible cards featuring Jewel, Kanye West, James Blunt, Mariah Carey, Hoobastank, Dixie Chicks, and Panic at the Disco have custom artwork and provide access to exclusive bonus material on the iTunes Music Store. Six other cards featuring Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, 50 cent, All American Rejects, Black-Eyed Peas, and Weezer offer only custom artwork.¬†Each card is redeemable for $15 worth of iTunes merchandise. “Collect all thirteen cards or give them to your favorite fan,” says Apple.

ATO readying High-definition video add-on for iPod

ATO plans to introduce a new version of its iSee video player that will be capable of playing high-definition video. Like the company’s original iSee 360 (shown right), the forthcoming device will feature a sleeve-like form factor, built-in LCD display, and the ability to play videos stored on an iPod’s hard drive. ATO said the HD player will be compatible with MPEG 4, Divx, HD.264 and other video formats. It is expected to sell for approximately $199 to $250, and will be released within the next five months, according to the company.

E! television programs now on iTunes Music Store

E! Entertainment and Apple have announced that select E! television shows are now available on the iTunes Music Store. The new programming includes the second season of “The Girls Next Door,” new episodes of “The Soup,” new and past episodes of “Dr. 90210,” and new episodes of “The Simple Life: ‘Til Death Do Us Part.” Like other shows on iTunes, each episode is priced at $1.99.

Video game to connect gamers to iTunes Music Store

Video game developer Left Behind Games has announced that it will integrate links to the iTunes Music Store in an upcoming game, allowing gamers to purchase music they hear during gameplay. The game, “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” is a real-time strategy game based on the best-selling Left Behind book series. The developer said that clicking a music link will pause the game and launch the iTunes Music Store. After the song is downloaded, gamers can resume action or customize their playlist and listen to the newly downloaded music while playing. The game is scheduled for an October release. preparing iLike music service

Online music community today announced that it will soon launch iLike, a new social music discovery service “targeted at the iPod and MySpace generation.” The iLike service will “expand the company’s existing services by including mainstream artists and incorporating links among friends.” iLike will also include software for iTunes users, according to the company. “These new services, to be offered at, will include a companion app for iTunes that allows consumers to organize their digital music libraries and discover new artists based on their listening habits. iLike will help consumers discover music based on what they and their friends like.”

Apple: iPods designed to last four years [updated]

In a Chicago Tribune article on faulty iPods, an Apple spokeswoman said that failure rates for the device are low, and that an iPod is designed to last four years. Apple’s Natalie Kerris said iPods have a failure rate of less than 5%, which she said is “fairly low” compared with other electronics. “The vast majority of our customers are extremely happy with their iPods,” she said. Rob Enderle, analyst at the Enderle Group, estimates that 15% of iPods will fail within one year of purchase. He said that’s comparable to other gadgets, such as cell phones. The Tribune article also cites a 2005 survey by MacInTouch, which includes reports from more than 4,000 respondents. The survey found that of the 9,000 iPods owned by the respondents, more than 1,400 of the Apple devices had failed. The survey reported a total failure rate of 13.7%, about half battery related and half hard drive related.

Update: Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris has confirmed to iLounge that she was misquoted in the above-linked Chicago Tribune article. She said she told the reporter that the iPod was designed to last “for years”—not “four years.”

22Moo developing PodBuffet iTunes kiosk

Australian hardware and software developer 22Moo today announced that it has begun development on an iTunes Kiosk called the PodBuffet. 22Moo said that the current prototype machine uses an Apple Mac mini, a 15-inch TFT touch screen with virtual keyboard software, a wireless internet connection, and a “customized application for timed access” to the iTunes Music Store. The PodBuffet will also feature multiple dock connectors and USB and Firewire ports for older iPods and iPod shuffles. “Soon iPod owners around the world can download videos and musics to their iPods from places such as airports, train stations, hotels, shopping centers, etc.,” the company said in its announcement.

Memorex reveals iFlip portable video player for iPod

Memorex has provided iLounge with exclusive details and photos of a new portable video player for fifth-generation iPods. The new iFlip features an 8.4-inch LCD display, integrated speakers, tilting iPod dock, and lithium-ion battery. Users can watch videos stored on an iPod on the iFlip’s built-in display or use the player’s speakers for music-only playback.

The iFlip offers a native resolution of 480 x 234, while the integrated battery provides up to five hours of power. The fold-up unit also features S-video out, line out, and dual headphone jacks. While the iFlip has an on-screen menu system (brightness, contrast, sharpness, color, screen mode, etc.), Memorex said the user will still navigate music and video via the iPod. The iFlip will launch in mid-September, retailing for $200. It will be available in black or white, with an iFlip carrying case sold separately.

Mix: Synaptics, iClod, HealthPod, PumpedforSummer

Apple could once again tap Synaptics to provide the touch-sensor components for the iPod’s click wheel. Cowen and Company said Synaptics will likely receive a “meaningful but minority role” as a supplier to Apple as early as the first quarter of 2007.

In his latest Wired News column, Eliot Van Buskirk says that Microsoft’s Zune player is doomed. “Prior to Friday’s announcement, some were calling the new device the ‘mPod’ (Microsoft + iPod) killer. But given Microsoft’s typically tone deaf approach to usability and Apple’s market lead it will be a miracle if its next nickname isn’t the ‘iClod’ (iPod + clone + awful).”

Metallica music now on iTunes Music Store

Long-time digital music holdouts Metallica are now selling their entire back catalog on the iTunes Music Store. Apple is currently offering 10 albums, from the band’s debut “Kill ‘Em All” to 2004’s “Some Kind of Monster” EP. Previously unreleased live tracks have also been added to each of the first four albums as iTunes bonuses.

“Over the last year or so, we have seen an ever-growing number of Metallica fans using online sites like iTunes to get their music,” the band says on their official website. “So, in continuing with the tradition of offering our albums for sale online (which we’ve been doing for a few years through various sites), as well as making our live concerts available for download in their entirety (through the site), we are now offering fans the opportunity to obtain our songs individually.”

Metallica was involved in a high-profile legal battle with the original Napster and several universities over its music being shared using the Napster network. In addition, the band was not on board for the launch of the iTunes Music Store in 2003, refusing to sell their songs individually. A spokesman for Metallica’s management company said at the time that the band “would rather not contribute to the demise of the album format.”

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